NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The New Brunswick High School senior class trip to Walt Disney World was canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and now the school board is suing an Orlando tour operator who has refused to refund the students’ money.
The board has filed a lawsuit seeking a $68,000 refund from A Coast Tours, which has been specializing for more than 20 years in booking student travel for graduating classes, elementary and middle schools, school bands, choirs and orchestras and other groups, according to its website.
According to board attorney George Hendricks, the lawsuit was filed in Middlesex County on May 19.
Hendricks said 47 students and five chaperones paid to spend five days visiting "The Most Magical Place On Earth" in April. Their money was given to district officials, who booked the trip.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to grip New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 104, which ordered all public, private and parochial schools in the state to close by March 18.
The city's schools closed their doors, the students began distance learning and the trip was canceled. However, Hendricks told TAPinto New Brunswick on Thursday that A Coast Tours has declined to refund the money. At one point during the talks with the travel operator, Hendricks said the students and chaperones were offered vouchers for a future flight.
“I understand refunds, but these are inner-city kids,” he said. “Their parents put up good money. What good is a voucher for Southwest Airlines, come on. So, we didn't get anywhere and I sued them.”
Christopher Morrison, a Winter Park, Fla.-based attorney who represents A Coast Tours, told TAPinto New Brunswick that his client will refund any money it can recoup from the airline, Disney or the vendor hired to transport the students and chaperones. He said some of the vendors are still shut down and aren't responding to his requests.
He confirmed that Southwest Airlines was offering each student and chaperone a voucher for a future flight.
"Now, as an aside, the contract says there's no requirement for any refund at all," Morrison said. "But clearly, if my clients are able to recover any monies, they will be refunded."
Morrison added: "The district had the opportunity to purchase travel insurance for frankly just this thing and they declined to do that."